Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 105

VOLUME 11, NUMBER 1 A JOURNAL FOR THE THEOLOGY OF CULTURE First, God is a visual artist. God is, of course, more than that, but God created the universe with intricate design and profound mystery that the visual arts pursue. Second, for an artist, their studio is a sacred place of creativity. Many times, this reality is twisted into an idol of sorts (a temple of self-expression), but nevertheless, artists have always connected the act of making with the spiritual. A friend of mine is a preacher here in Princeton, New Jersey, and I heard him preach on the book of Ezekiel. He mentioned, in opening a series, that many people start to read Ezekiel and have no idea what the prophet is trying to say. I went up to him afterwards and shared that when I read Ezekiel for the first time, it made total sense to me! Ezekiel’s vision, John’s vision, Joseph’s “reading” of dreams, Jesus’s parables, make intuitive sense to an artist. Here’s where an artist/theologian can lead to pave the way for even nonartists to appreciate a grand Artist (God). PLM: I have heard you reflect on the importance of innovation and the need for viewing life in an open way, as well as the need to guard against reductionism. Could you speak to these values and concerns? MF: Reductionism, as a mathematical term, is important, so I do not want to mislead in saying that all reductionism is problematic. But there is a type of “no-sum-game” reductionism to which modernist assumptions have taken us. In my father’s acoustics research (I was born in Boston because my father was doing his post-doctoral work with Noam Chomsky), he refers to this reductionism as a “segmentalist” approach. He fought against segmentalism as an acoustics scientist at Bell Labs for many years. This approach is to take human speech, and take segmental data, and reconstruct speech patterns. I liken this to cutting up a frog, and stitching it back together, and expecting it to jump again. This type of segmental reductionism desires to reduce human experience into bits and pieces of data that can be manipulated, controlled, and ultimately marketed. I have taken Ezra Pound’s adage that “artists are the canary of the coal mine of culture” to add, “. . . and they smell the tainted air and sing.” Artists are instinctively uncomfortable in a fragmented, segmented reality. I always also say, “Art is completely useless; therefore art is essential.” Art is essential for the thriving of humanity. 104